If you look at hip hop music and what a lot of people are wearing, and what a lot of people are saying, hip hop music is very influential, and I feel like this could be a hub to really spark a change in the whole world.
IS BROUGHT TO YOU IN PART BY
In my research into the music industry here in the Upstate of South Carolina, I immediately noticed all the focus is on Greenville, but there is one recording studio in Spartanburg that caught my attention. It's located in an older section of Spartanburg, and let's be honest, it's not one of the neighborhoods that has been marked for renovation and innovation yet. The row of businesses on Whitney Road next to the Spartan Plaza Shopping Center look like they had a lot of potential at one point in time, but not much investment has been made in them in the last 20 or 30 years. And when Jordan Easler first opened the door to what would become Speaklife Studio, he had a lot of work to do to turn what used to be an office for a concrete company into a modern studio for budding hip hop and r&b artists to record professional beats and tracks to rival their idols such as Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg.
Jordan has a passion for mixing and recording that goes back to his teens. He started his business in his bedroom, often introducing his first clients to his parents and inviting them to sit on his bed while they recorded. He quickly upgraded the bed to a futon because even back then he understood that professionalism is everything. Every birthday and Christmas, he would ask for a new piece of equipment and accepted that some times that would be the only gift he would receive because of the cost.
When he turned 18, he inherited a trust fund that allowed him to invest in professional sound boards and equipment, and take the huge step of renting the commercial space on Whitney Road and turn it into Speaklife Studio. Jordan shared with me how faith and a genuine desire to help others are the driving forces behind everything.
"Right out of high school, I started taking a history class in college. Growing up in the Bible belt, you're going to church more than likely, so I was constantly in church. And it kind of felt like it was really forced. And I started taking my history class, and was like, 'I don't know if I believe all this stuff.' Biblically speaking, seas are splitting in half, people are raising from the dead, and you're like...at the time I was 18 and 19 years old and I started thinking, 'I don't know about all this.' I didn't feel comfortable talking to my parents about it. I thought they might think that I'm a weirdo - YOU CAN'T BE THINKING THAT! I couldn't communicate that to anybody. So, I went about a year when it was a really dark time in my life because this is what I lived my life for and now I'm questioning is what I'm living my life for even real? I started studying history books...science...I started reading articles and interviews... if I was going to live my life for something, I wanted to know what it's all about.
Whenever you can't communicate things to people and you don't feel like there's a real transparent, open environment, that thing inside of you keeps growing and growing, and my biggest thing with the studio is that I'm very grateful that I got through that time. And the studio actually solidified it.
I can't tell you all the details about God and this and that. I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong and I'm right. But just from the things I've prayed for and what I've seen - it's blowing my mind. I can' sum it up into anything else other than that. One of the biggest things I want the studio to be is a transparent environment. You're not going to get - OKAY, YOU GOTTA READ LEVITICUS CHAPTER 4 BEFORE YOU RECORD IN MY STUDIO - because that's not it.
There's guys in here who open up to me. The're involved in gangs. Some of them are very open about dealing in drugs. It's not my place to judge those guys. It's my place to say, you know what let's just talk about it. Are you doing okay in your life? I want this to be an experience. You can come in here, and if you're going through something, music is a great hub to get things out. One of the biggest things I pray for... when I came in here and go the keys, I said I wanted people to come in here and be able to talk to me about whatever and know that it's not going outside these four walls. Because you can't keep something locked inside.
A buddy of mine just attempted suicide. He came in here the week after it happened and he told me everything he was going through. And I realized that is what it's all about. It's more than music.
I want you to record. I want to mix your tracks the best that it can possibly be. I want you to know that I'm not going to send you a halfway done record. And I want you to know that if you're working for your money, and if you come in here and pay me your money, I would expect a great product too. I have a premium rate. I would expect a premium product back. But I think it's a lot deeper than that.
If you look at hip hop music and what a lot of people are wearing, and what a lot of people are saying, hip hop music is very influential, and I feel like this could be a hub to really spark a change in the whole world. I'm super grateful that people come in here and open up to me about some of the things they've got going on. There's a lot of conflict. I couldn't care less if you're a Muslim, atheist, Christian, gay, straight, whatever you are - I'm not going to be the guy to tell you you're living wrong. I should be the guy to show you love at the end of the day.
I got in trouble for recording some of the people I was recording. 'You're supposed to be a Christian guy. You can't be recording guys talking about guns, drugs, and violence.' People are on different walks, and different journeys. What I studied about Jesus was that He was a humble, loving guy. I think at the end of the day, that' what I want to show.
I want to be great on the music end. I want you to get the best product, but at the same time I want you to feel comfortable and have an experience. If conversation leads to something a lot deeper than music, then that's what it's for. That's where the name Speaklife comes from. There is so much negativity in the world and there is so much power with being able to just get stuff off your chest. I hope this has a positive impact on the lives of everyone who comes in here."
Once you step into Speaklife Studio, you will see that it is a modern and professional recording studio. Jordan has turned it into a place where musical creativity can thrive and artists can be comfortable.
Jordan has plans for more than the recording studio. He hopes to start a mentoring program with the Spartanburg public school system to give kids an outlet for their creativity and give them a vision and develop skills for their future.
You can contact Jordan at Speaklife Studio
Heather Kitchen, Editor-In-Chief
Heather is the editor-in-chief of Upstate Exposures Magazine. She is also the owner of Heather Kitchen Images professional photography based in Inman, South Carolina.